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What is it?

Echinacea is a spiny looking plant with purple leaves radiating from the center and is a derivative of the purple coneflower. It grows to be one to two feet in height and is a member of the daisy family. Three types of the plant are used for medical purposes. They are Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida. Mainly the roots, the seeds, and the leaves are extracted for medicinal usage. Many people believe the herb to be a remedy for ailments such as the common cold or the flu, which explains why the citizens of the United States spend $3 million annually on the drug. As a consequence of its popularity however, certain places in both the United States and Europe have restricted the harvesting of Echinacea and have put it on the endangered species list. The herb has not yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as either safe or effective in the forms that manufactures are distributing. (


The Native Americans were the first people to use Echinacea for medical purposes. They believed that sufferers with minor disorders such as colds to more serious conditions like snakebites could benefit from usage. They even utilized the herb for veterinary medicine for horses. In the early 1900’s, the herb gained commercial popularity and was widely sold throughout the United States. Consumers had high hopes that Echinacea would cure or prevent many different illnesses. In 1910 however, the American Medical Association claimed that the drug was useless but many people continued to purchase and use the supplement until about 1930. Th...

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...iratory Tract Infections. Western Journal of Medicine, 171, 3

Lindenmuth, G., Lindenmuth, E. (2000). The Efficacy of Echinacea Compound Herbal Tea Preparation on the Severity and Duration of Upper Respiratory and Flu Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-controlled Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,6, 327-334

Melchart, D., Walther, E., Linde, K., Brandmaier, R., Lersch, C. (1998). Echinacea Root Extracts for the Prevention of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Randomized Trial. Archives of Family Medicine, 7,6

Percival, S. (2000) Use of Echinacea in Medicine. Biochemical Pharmacology, 60, 155-158

Turner, R., Riker, D., Gangemi, D. (2000). Ineffectiveness of Echinacea for Prevention of Experimental Rhinovirus Colds. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, 44, 1708-1709

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